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IRX 2012: PREVIEW: Interview with Simon Russell of John Lewis

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In our latest preview of one of our major events of the year, Internet Retailing Expo (IRX 2012), we asked keynote speaker Simon Russell, head of multichannel at John Lewis, about how retailers can design their crosschannel services around their customers.

Internet Retailing: Why is it important to design cross-channel shopping around the customer experience – and how can retailers best approach doing that?

Simon Russell, John Lewis: Retailers that really understand the full customer journey that starts when they consider buying a product and begin researching through to them selecting, buying and receiving it, will be able to make the right decisions to make that experience even better. Those experiences whether inspirational or hassle free will not be forgotten quickly and will influence the customer’s next purchase. 

IR: When you approached this task at John Lewis, what were your priorities? 

SR: The first priority was helping our Partners (staff) to understand the changing customer shopping habits, particularly in shops where they could influence and facilitate the changing customer behaviour quickly. Alongside this, a clear understanding of our customers and developing a clear multi-channel strategy were equally important.

IR: What were the biggest challenges and what things (if any) were surprisingly simple to achieve?

SR: Many legacy systems can be a slow and expensive barrier to making the required changes to give a customer a truly seamless experience regardless of channel. Sometimes the simplest of changes becomes impossible. Ironically the reverse is true and some initiatives which I perceived to be really difficult like free customer wifi were actually much easier to achieve. 

IR: How would you do things differently if you did them again? 

SR: Hindsight is a wonderful thing! The unpredictable nature of new technology and market conditions make the timing of investment decisions tricky. So whilst I am pleased with most of the investment bets we have placed it is only natural to also wonder about the ones we didn’t make! 

IR: Are there parts of the cross-channel experience that have worked out differently from how you initially expected – and why was that?

SR: The speed of change has been faster and customers have really embracing new technology more than I predicted. Mobile is a great example of that at the moment. 

IR: Do you think that in cross-channel we now have a definitive model that will shape the future evolution of shopping, or do you think the way we shop may yet change radically – and if so, any pointers on how?

SR: I’d be a rich man if I knew that! Change will inevitably continue and shopping journeys will become a blend of many channels throughout the norm. Online and mobile will grow in importance and play an active part in most customer journeys, but shops will continue to be the retailing king in the next decade and beyond.

Hear Simon Russell’s keynote presentation, Customer Experience in a Crosschannel Environment, firsthand at IRX 2012. He will be speaking in the Customer Experience Conference on March 22 at 10 am.

Entrance to IRX 2012, which will be held at the NEC in Birmingham on March 21 and 22, is free. More than 4,000 visitors are expected at the event, which features an exhibition of 150 suppliers to the ecommerce and multichannel industries alongside a two-day learning programme, Selling in the Digital Age.

The programme features four conferences, dedicated to Mobile and Social Commerce, Fast Track, Enterprise and Customer Experience, as well as a series of workshops, learning sessions and demonstrations of the latest technology.

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